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The River Road mural.


By Richard Jones

I have to be honest about this. River Road in Barking is not an easy location to sell as an outing! Firstly, it is a bleak and, in parts, desolate location, part of which includes a waste disposal premises that - and again I have to be frank - doesn't half pong.

But, as the saying goes, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and, likewise, you shouldn't judge a road by its stench, cash and carries, industrial units and garbage gobbling recycling premises.

So, hang on in there my intrepid explorer, and you will be rewarded with a wonderful mural that will make all that you must endure a more than worthwhile endeavor.


For, having hopped off the bus, and strolled along River Road, a true treasure will come into view as you notice a colourful mural on the wall beside the entrance to the Creekmouth Open Space.

The Artwork was created by Tamara Froud, and, to quote the plaque on the wall alongside it:-

"Two old souls talk across a river, remembering times gone by in Creekmouth Village, As their words transform into the waters of the Thames and the Roding, the history of Creekmouth and the surrounding area is brought to life: from the Princess Alice disaster, to the looming towers of Barking Power Station, and the flood that spelt the end of village life."


The feature of the mural that truly grabs your attention is the vivid depiction of the Bywell Castle colliding with the Princess Alice pleasure steamer.

This disaster occurred at around 7.40pm on Tuesday the 3rd of September, 1878. The Princess Alice was returning to London carrying around 900 day trippers who had spent the day at the Rosherville Pleasure Gardens and at Sheerness, in Kent.

As she was rounding Tripcock Point, located on the opposite bank of the River Thames from the side by which you are now standing, The Bywell Castle, a colliers ship, which was four times the size of the Princess Alice, collided with her and effectively cut her in two.

Close on 900 men, women and children ended up in the River Thames, just beyond Creekmouth Open Space in front of you, and around 650 of them were drowned, in what still remains the worst inland water disaster in English history.

The horror was compunded by the fact that 75 million imperial gallons of raw sewage had just been released into the Thames from the pumping stations that were siutated in this vicinity.

The Bywell Castle colliding with the Princess Alice.


The mural captures the horror of the moment in whch the Bywell Castle ploughed into the Princess Alice. You can see the shapes of the passengers gathered on the decks of the steamer, just before the vessel split in two and condemned many of them to a watery grave.

A closer look beneath the vessels reveals various statements from those who survived and those witnessed the tragedy, as well as those who attempted to rescue the victims from the water. Quotes such as:- "It was a sight I will never forget if I live for a hundred years."

It really is a special memorial to one of the worst tragedies of Vivtorian London; and, irrespective of the bleakness of the surroundings, it is well worth paying a visit.